April is Autism Awareness Month
As we wind down from April, Autism Awareness Month, we are continuing our quest for knowledge about autism and how to best serve our autistic children and community in the best way we know how - through thoughtfully-designed products and playspaces. The goal is always to help all people find the best of themselves through play and learn and develop in a way that is comfortable and accessible to them. Because there is no one type of autism, there isn’t one type of play piece or experience that will be engaging or helpful for all children with autism but there are some underlying pieces we can add to create an experience that may speak to a larger group of children. In 2021, we introduced a couple of research-based products that are designed for all children with a lean toward helping children with autism find comfort and fun within the playspace. The Serenity™ Spot is a sensory-based play piece that provides games, the opportunity for repetitive movement or stimming – short for self-stimulatory behavior and engagement with both peers and adults. Hand and foot flaps are designed to be manipulated and make stimming behaviors the natural way any child would use them. Many autistic children and adults have expressed the importance of stimming so creating a space where it is encouraged is a welcome change from many environments. The Serenity Spot is also useful as an entry point into the playspace where children can plan their play experience from a more secluded environment. Placing it on the peripheral of the space allows children to observe the area and adapt at their pace to the stimulation around them. Adding the Serenity Spot within the play environment can also be useful so a child can create a destination point for themselves knowing there is a quieter, more protected place to rest upon arrival.
Another 2021 introduction to Burke’s commercial playground offering is the Brava™ Universal Swing. The Brava is named for being brave and overcoming the limits people or society might place on you. Brava basically pushes aside the notion that swinging must be a to-fro motion and is accomplished by “pumping” your legs. Using your arms, core and/or legs, anyone can participate in swinging on Brava. The rocking motion needed to get the swing moving mimics stimming behaviors and normalizes the motion for all children. Facing each other on the swing promotes interaction, cooperation, eye contact and provides a shared experience. In addition, children using mobility devices that wish to transfer, are able to do so independently because the swing doesn’t have the traditional to-fro motion, so it won’t move while they are settling into it. This allows children of all abilities control over their play experience which is shown by research to be important to them.
The world of autism spectrum disorders continues to shift and we continue to grow our knowledge base and drive toward products and playspace designs that help all children and community members get the most out of play and movement. A few resources we’ve been following and would love the share with you are: